If there is genuine excitement to be had in Bordeaux 2020, that is, excitement above the wines made in 2018 and 2019 here, then it probably lies in the wines of the right bank, and starts with the Côtes de Bordeaux appellations, especially those on limestone and clay limestone soils, such as Francs and Castillon. I was super impressed by the quality of some of the wines from the latter appellation especially [and also in Fronsac too – more on that appellation shortly]. Château Alcée, L’Aurage, Château Le Rey and Clos Puy Arnaud are simply knockout in Castillon in 2020. Château Ampélia and Château La Brande are also very impressive and close behind in quality. Château Puygueraud in Francs is very good and in the Côtes de Bourg, Roc de Cambes is a wonder.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Haut Bertinerie’
This post is taken from tastings earlier in the year and compiles notes and scores on nearly thirty white wines from the 2019 Bordeaux vintage. There were considerable variations in styles, across a variety of terroirs. The hot and dry conditions were a challenge for some producers. Sometimes the structure and body that a warm vintage can bring is at the expense of aromatic complexity. Picking dates are also important. Harvest needs to be early enough to retain sufficient acidity and freshness. The danger of harvesting a little late is the wines can feel fat, low in acidity and lack focus. At the top level in 2019, I was especially impressed with Château Smith Haut Lafitte, which has produced another knockout white in Léognan. Château Pape Clément also impressed in Pessac. At the other end of the compass [geographically speaking] were impressive whites from Château Cos d’Estournel [Cos blanc and Pagodes de Cos], drawn from fruit adjacent to the Gironde in the Médoc. I also enjoyed Jean-Luc Thunevin’s rich Château Valandraud Blanc from vineyards in St Emilion. These were the absolute highlights of the whites I tasted.
This year one of the opportunities of having samples sent to you is the extra time you can spend tasting them. There are benefits. Rocking up to a château, tasting for fifteen minutes and speeding off to the next property can get a bit Formula One. The grower spends all year making their wine and you make notes in a few minutes with one eye on the clock to keep on track for the next appointment. In primeurs week what else can you do? You want to taste as much as you can but have a finite time to do it. This year samples have turned up at my front door steadily over a couple of months. Yes, it has taken me longer to work my way through the wines and come to an overview this way. There is also a risk that samples won’t be as impressive as when tasted in situ, and there is the chance of spoilage in transport. But being able to taste a wine over a two or three-hour period, I feel confident in the conclusions I am able to draw about the individual wines this year, despite not being able to travel to Bordeaux. Zoom and other video conferencing have allowed winemakers to fill in the gaps in a less hurried way, too.
If you want a great introduction to the hedonistic pleasures of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage, then look no further than the Côtes de Bordeaux. Wonderful wines have been made in Castillon, Francs, Blaye and Cadillac. For me Francs and Castillon lead the pack with some fantastically plump, rich reds that retain harmony and balance. If occasionally some wines lack a little zip, the colours are deep, the fruit is beautiful and the tannic profiles are supple and not overly extractive. This is a vintage that really reminds me of 2009 at its finest. Yet there are less of the late-picked qualities of that year, nor the more evident extractive cellar chicanery of that winemaking period. Outstanding wines have been made in 2018 at Château Alcée, Château d’Aiguilhe, Château Côtes Montpezat, Château de Laussac [Cuveé Sacha] in Castillon at the top end. In Francs, Thienpont’s Château La Prade and Château Puygueraud are brilliant. Château Reynon is also seriously impressive in Cadillac.